What do a snow shovel, a skateboard, a rented U-Haul truck, and a snow disc (hooked to a leash) have in common?
They’re tools for ‘city farming’, of course!
And they all came in handy recently when I rallied the troops to tackle the eyesore front yard and do a re-make on the raised beds.
You might remember my grandiose ideas for the remake in the backyard…but when I took a good look out front, I decided I needed to focus my attentions there for now, and put off (again) the sprawling backyard garden of my dreams.
I’ve had several raised beds out front for some time now. They’re in the driveway and on a little grassy hill between the driveway and the sidewalk. The raised beds have done well out there, on top of the concrete, but with all the gallons of winter rain over the years, they were starting to fall apart (I originally made them from scavenged wood). Every year I repair them a bit hoping to limp them along for another season. (These days they’re almost made up more of screws than wood, in my attempt to hold them all together.)
Besides the rotting wood frames, the hill itself causes problems all summer (and winter, for that matter)…with green grass-turned-jungle…but it’s hard to care for it in the summer because the vines/veggies/fruit grow out onto the grass, making it hard to weed-whack around.
This year, I decided to go industrial strength and forget about all that rotting wood and overgrown grass. So enter 250 45-pound concrete blocks, a snow shovel, a skateboard, a rented U-Haul truck, a snow disc on a leash, a bunch of eager kids, and the mercy of a nice neighbor.
And a few lessons learned in the process (life is always like that, right?)…
First, I had to let go of the backyard vision for this planting season. With the help of the chickens, we’ve been amassing quiet a pile of lovely compost-turned-dirt. But there wasn’t enough for the front and back together, so I loaded up 14 HUGE wheelbarrows full of the stuff and hauled it up front.
It still wasn’t enough, so we rented a truck, scoured Craigslist, and found some free ‘nice topsoil with very little grass.’ And with it comes one of those bitter/sweet learning curve things…it was NICE dirt, but it had more grass than dirt, so it took a LOT of work separating the two and in the end, we ended up with a larger pile of grass than dirt…sigh.
(After 3 hours of fighting with the unloading and separating of the ‘good soil with LOTS AND LOTS of grass’, a neighbor came by and unloaded the second half for us in less than 30 minutes, which is why I’m still alive today to tell you this story!)
The next obstacle was our limited tools. And, the bunch of weenie-armed kids I had for helpers. The kids got creative, though. Before too long, one had a snow disc pulled by a leash and they were loading up sod (to haul into a dip in the back that needed filling) and bringing back rocks (to cover the landscape cloth). It’s probably the most useful thing a snow disc in Portland, Oregon has ever done (considering we never have enough snow to actually use it for what it’s for).
Another of the kids figured out a way to haul those 45-lb blocks up the hill on his skateboard—sometimes even hauling two at a time! And I discovered months ago that a snow shovel works great for sifting and loading large scoops of compost/dirt at one time.
So, with our mis-matched tools of trade, we set to work transforming the front beds; laying down cloth, lining and stacking blocks, filling up beds with dirt from the back, unloading and separating dirt from sod, and finally, planting veggies and flowers.
It’s certainly not finished, but it’s planted and it’s growing and it’s greatly improved from what it was before. Now if the rain would stop…and the weather would start acting like summer…but one step at a time, right?
(PS if you’re wondering what all the feed bags are in the middle of everything–that’s where I planted some of my potatoes.)